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Study Shows the Best Time To Buy Airline Tickets

S.Z. Berg
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MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 16: The Cabin Crew of Finnair wearing old style uniforms attend Finnair 85th Anniversary Celebration at Malpensa Airport on September 16, 2008 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

Finnair Celebrates 85th Anniversary In Milan

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Popular belief says that the best days to purchase airline tickets are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but according to researchers at Texas A&M University, there's no systematic analysis to back that up, at least not any that they could find.

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Steven Puller, an associate professor of economics at Texas A&M, who specializes in industrial organization, along with Lisa Taylor, a former Texas A&M graduate student, looked at how the same airline on the same route set its fares based on the day of the week that the ticket was purchased and found that regardless of the day of the week that the tickets were for, tickets that were purchased on Saturdays and Sundays averaged a 5% savings over similar tickets purchased during the work week for routes where both business and leisure travelers fly, such as the Dallas to Denver route. They attribute this finding to the assumption that business travelers primarily purchased their tickets on weekdays, and price-conscious leisure travelers purchased their tickets on weekends.

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The researchers did not find much of this type of discount for leisure destinations, such as Orlando and Las Vegas.

The study was conducted by examining an archive of 145,000 round-trip airline ticket purchases for nonstop flights to popular U.S. routes (excluding first-class travel and flights around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's) and comparing prices of similar tickets in terms of days of the week the flights were on, whether or not the tickets were refundable, how many days in advance the ticket was purchased, and how full the flights were, among other factors. The study, "Price Discrimination By Day-Of-Week Of Purchase: Evidence From The U.S. Airline Industry," was published recently in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

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Puller thinks that these findings may apply to other travel industries that have the ability to change prices daily, such as cruises, car rentals, and hotels.

Puller notes that the study findings don't apply to travelers who are looking for the cheapest price possible.

--Written by S.Z. Berg, author of College on the Cheap.

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